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How #Strongwoman Mapule used running to change her life

To commemorate International Women’s Day, we share the inspirational story of Adidas Running ambassador Mapule Ndlovu, who refused to settle for less.

“I would run because I wanted to cry. I didn’t want to do it in front of my mom or my grandma,” explained Mapule.

When you see her now, with her strong body, steely resolve and big personality, it’s hard to imagine that just a few years ago Mapule Ndhlovu was at her most vulnerable.

Down but not out

Without the funds to study further after matric, she became demotivated and disillusioned. She spent her days helping her grandmother and mother run their daycare business from home.

Not wanting to show how she was feeling in front of them, running became an excuse to get out of the house.

“I’ve always felt like I needed to be the strong one at home, and I started running as my emotional release,” she said.

Fitness as a gateway to more

Although her relationship with running started in a desperate place, it made Mapule realise that she wanted something bigger for her life.

It was on 10 March 2012 – Mapule’s 22nd birthday – when the page turned to reveal the next chapter in her life.

Mapule always recites the full date whenever she talks about it. It’s an epochal moment because that is when she got the best gift of her life: a visit from the Fitness Institute offering to sponsor her tuition to complete an Exercise Science course. She often refers to it as the day her life changed.

While studying, she got a job at the Virgin Active in Sandton, which proved to be the gateway into a personal training career. If only she could get herself to work by 4am.

Running for a purpose

“I would wake up and leave my house at 3am,” said Mapule. Despite the risks, she would run through the township at that time to get to work on time.

“I know the stories. I know what can happen. But I had to be a better person. I didn’t want to be a victim or be dependent on anyone.”

Mapule ran from Alex to Sandton in the morning, and back again at the end of the workday. That’s 48,000 steps, but it forged in her the desire to inspire others and let them know anything is possible with commitment.

And through her struggles, Queen Fitnass was born. Mapule’s social media persona is now inspiring almost 40 000 fans to take at least a few of those steps a day.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” adds Mapule, “health and wellness is a universal opportunity. Everyone needs to be confident. Everyone needs to be well; everyone needs to be healthy. Everyone needs to function properly.”

The next chapter begins

Now, Mapule works in fitness education. Something that she’s taken to so naturally, it feels like she was always meant to do it. Maybe she picked it up from helping her grandmother in the daycare, in the time when she was at her most hopeless.

“When you grow up in a space where you’re not told that you can do and be whatever you want, it’s not easy to believe in yourself.”

If only she knew then what she knows now: that she’s faster than her circumstance.

Author: Pedro van Gaalen

When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.

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